Govt, opposition agree on 20th Amendment at last
Asim Yasin and Tahir Khalil
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Thursday finally agreed on the formula for a caretaker set-up thus paving the way for the passage of the 20th amendment.
It appeared that all opposition demands have been met. The government has sought time to take its allies into confidence and get approval from the cabinet before tabling the constitutional amendment in both the houses of parliament.
The informal meeting of the government and opposition was held in the chamber of Chairman Parliamentary Committee on National Security Mian Raza Rabbani. The PPP team comprised Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Shah and Mian Raza Rabbani while the PML-N was represented by Senator Ishaq Dar, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Zahid Hamid.
Talking to The News, senior PML-N leader Senator Ishaq Dar confirmed that the PPP and PML-N have reached an understanding and so far there is unanimity on changes in the draft of the 20th amendment. “Now the government will take up the agreed draft in the cabinet meeting to get approval to formalise the 20th amendment and to bring it in both the houses of parliament. We hope that within the next two days they will get approval from the cabinet,” he said. He further said the government had indicated to summon a special cabinet meeting for this purpose in a day or two to get the agreed draft approved; however sources said that the meeting is likely to be held next month.
Similar views were expressed by Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Shah who confirmed that both sides have agreed to a new draft of the 20th constitutional amendment. “This bill would be submitted to a special meeting of the federal cabinet within the next few days and after approval from the cabinet, the bill would be tabled in parliament,” he added.
According to the formula for the next caretaker set-up, the leader of the House and leader of the Opposition would suggest the names of members for the interim government. Sources said that a six-member committee with three members each from the PPP and PML-N would be constituted to resolve any differences on the caretaker set-up.
Sources said it was agreed that the same formula would be followed in the caretaker set-up in the provinces. Source said the MQM has expressed its reservations over the constitution of the committee. “The party seeks representation on the committee,” the sources said.
The MQM has made its support for the proposed amendment subject to inclusion of its bill for the creation of new provinces with that of the constitutional amendment. Deputy Parliamentary leader of the MQM Haider Abbas Rizvi said that in the proposed formula it is suggested that besides three members from the PPP and PML-N each, the new parliamentary committee should consist of one member from each political party that has at least 10 parliamentarians in the National Assembly. In the formula it is proposed that if the parliamentary committee couldn’t reach a consensus on naming a caretaker prime minister, the chief election commissioner should be given the right to do so in order to avoid a deadlock, and the next general elections could be held as per schedule.
The PML-Q does not seem to have any objection to the formula for the next caretaker set-up. However, sources said the Q-League has demanded that the education syllabus should be controlled by the Centre instead of provinces.
Sources said Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani will brief the coalition partners in the cabinet about negotiations with the PML-N on the 20th Amendment to give legal cover to the by-elections that were held after the 18th amendment.
The opposition and the government have already agreed on the constitution of an independent Election Commission and the demand of the opposition for fixing the tenure of five years instead of two years for the members of the election commission will be made part of the 20th amendment.
It is now expected that the new bill of 20th Amendment would be presented in the National Assembly by Monday. According to sources, both the government and opposition agreed that in order to remove a member of the Election Commission, the same procedure would be adopted that is available for the removal of a judge of superior courts.
Sources said it was agreed that a political party can add or change name/s in the list submitted to the Election Commission of candidates for reserved seats of women. The government has also assured that it will implement the 18th Amendment in letter and spirit and there would be no deviation.
Source: The News